This week, more than 65 high school students from around the country begin an intensive, three-week language program as the Federal Service Language Academy (FSLA) kicks off its third year. The languages offered this summer are Arabic, Chinese, German, Russian, and, for the first time, Portuguese.
John Wilson, acting director for the Center for Global Engagement, said FSLA goes beyond classroom lecture.
"In addition to learning a critical language, these students will be participating in cultural field trips, and have the opportunity to actively participate in presentations led by representatives from federal agencies such as the DEA, FBI, U.S. Army, and U.S. Peace Corps," Wilson said. "They also begin the day with a one-hour fitness program led by Corps of Cadets personnel."
The possibility of a future career in the military or with a federal or international agency draws many students to the languages offered each summer during FSLA.
"Arabic is such an important language right now because there have been so many changes happening in the Middle East," said Aurelia Williams, a rising junior from Atlanta. "I chose Arabic to be able to pursue a government or United Nations career. Arabic is such an interesting language and because I already speak French and Chinese; Arabic just seemed like a fun and exciting language to tackle."
Aaron Friedman, a rising senior from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., chose Chinese.
"Chinese is an important business language and a future military language," Friedman said. He also attended the National Leadership Challenge hosted by UNG's Corps of Cadets last spring, and is interested in a future with the university’s military program.
Many students, like Savannah Rodriguez of Pinckney, Mich., a rising senior, have studied multiple languages before attending FSLA. She's taken Japanese and French and choose to study Chinese at FSLA.
"Languages are interesting to me and Chinese seems like a useful one," Rodriguez said. "I plan to take Chinese again next summer and at my school, and one day travel out of the country to use the language."
FSLA students live on the Dahlonega Campus in Gaillard Hall, where they are encouraged to study and practice with others pursuing the same language. Students are awake by 6:30 a.m. at least three days a week for physical activity and students and instructors are in the classroom from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily, with an hour break for lunch.
Instructors face a challenge in keeping the classroom lively and interesting the entire day. Ling Rao, an instructor from the University of Georgia who taught Chinese at FSLA last year, keeps class interactive.
"Since my experience from last year I have figured out different scenarios to keep them active," Rao said. "I have them act and do Chinese zumba, and a lot of activities to keep them interested."
Teaching the Arabic class is Ghaith G. Al Dayhi, who came from Iraq in 2010 and currently resides in Texas while he works on a master's degree. He said the opportunity to enhance his own learning drew him to Texas, but the chance to further a child's education drew him to Dahlonega to teach Arabic this summer.
Applications are still being accepted for the second FSLA session that will run from July 7-26.
In addition to the summer program for high school students, UNG also offers an intensive summer program for college students and offers classes in 10 languages through the Division of World Languages and Cultures.